29 October 2014

If you do not love & respect our Holy Father because he does not think like you - PLEASE unfriend yourself from my page! Where were these admonitions under Pope Benedict?

I saw this morning that a priest-classmate of mine "liked" a status update written by another priest. The update reads as follows:
Ok, I have had it! If you are one of those who will not love and respect our Holy Father because he does not think like you - PLEASE unfriend yourself from my page! I do not want to continue to read the slander of people who call themselves Catholic and spit on the Chair of Peter! As the saints have said "where there is Peter there is the Church [sic]! You do not have to agree with Pope Francis but you must love and respect him! I will die to defend him!
I should first like to point that rather than asking others to "unfriend" on social media sites because you do not like their posts, it seems more appropriate for you to "unfriend" them yourself. Be that as it may, I should next like to say that his request is not the only one along these lines I have seen.

There seems to be little toleration these days on social media sites for anyone who disagrees with Pope Francis, and very often disagreeing with him about matters which relate more to questions of prudential judgments (for example, how best to address a pastoral concern or how to phrase a particular concern) - on which people of good will and of good faith can legitimately disagree - are quickly interpreted as "hating" or "disrespecting" Pope Francis. However, sometimes, as Phil Lawler recently pointed out, sometimes disagreeing with an individual Pope is a sign of respect for the papacy. Cardinal Burke recently said something similar, as well.

There are certainly those who take their criticisms - whether just or unjust - of some of Pope Francis' decisions or methods of arriving at certain decisions too far. This is why there are several Catholic blogs I do not read. But there were Catholics who did the same with Benedict XVI.

This is what most struck me about the status update quoted above: As I said, I have seen several similar postings on social media sites regarding those who strongly disagreeing with Pope Francis, but I do not remember ever seeing the same people say the same against those who vehemently disagreed with Benedict XVI. Where were the calls for civil decency then? Where the offers to lay down their lives for the predecessor of Pope Francis? Where were the demands for respect and love?

Please, I am not criticizing any one particular person with this post; that is certainly not my intent. The status update above, rather, provides an occasion to ask a few important questions about how we use social media and how we speak about and relate to the person of the Pope.

Pope Francis clearly has tremendous admiration for his predecessor, of whom he recently spoke very highly:
Benedict XVI: a great Pope. Great for the strength and penetration of his intelligence; great for his important contribution to theology; great for his love in addressing the Church and human beings; great for his virtue and his religiosity.
Pope Francis has repeatedly referred to Benedict XVI as a grandfather;it may be time for others to do the same.

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